Blank screen – booting on NixOS USB ISO

Hello everyone,

I’m installing NixOS on a third laptop, and although everything went fine with the others, I have troubles with a Clevo N141. It’s all new, so maybe there are some problems with latest BIOS or hardware…

I boot from the latest NixOS .iso which works flawlessly on my other computers, but no matter what I try on this one (secure boot and fastboot are disabled in BIOS), I get a blank screen. Everything seems to work behind the screen however, since it’s RJ45 connected and my router LED is working, and when I type reboot without seeing anything, the laptop reboots… For more information, I get nothing on an HDMI external monitor (neither when booting in BIOS, which is strange), and the laptop was delivered with Ubuntu and it normally starts on this OS (HDMI monitor working as soon as login menu appears).
I thought trying to install from Ubuntu but I would like to start from scratch on a clean drive.

Anyone having experience with this?
Thanks and all the best,

You probably need NixOS unstable with a 5.4 linux kernel. I had the same problem with brand new Dell XPS 13 see here for howto build an installer image

Hey @markuskowa. Thanks a lot for your soon answer!

Sorry for this noob question, but how do you evaluate your .nix latest kernel iso builder from a terminal in order to create the .iso?

No problem:

  1. Get a copy of nixpkgs: git clone
  2. Save the snippet to iso-image.nix
  3. Adapt the first line of the script that it points to location of nixpkgs (from step 1)
  4. run nix-build iso-image.nix to build the image.
  5. In the folder result/ you will find the iso-image, which can write to a USB stick with dd

note that you don’t boot latest NixOS, you boot latest stable release. There is small link in the end of download page, which points to real latest NixOS release ISO - nixos-unstable release nixos-21.11pre326932.b165ce0c4ef

@danbst note that you may need the latest kernel for latest generation of Intel CPUs (it was the case for me). Do we have pre-built nixos-unstable image with 5.4 Linux kernel?

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I’m marking @markuskowa as solution to this post – he was the one who solved it – but I tweaked a little bit his answer to match my particular needs, so I thought I should report below for those having the same needs. So thanks a lot @markuskowa and @danbst for the help!

First of all, building from the git master branch creates a Nixos unstable (20.03 Markhor) .iso. By the way, there’s directly a kde-new-kernel in the cd-dvd section which should do what you intended @markuskowa.

However, your work was not lost at all to me, since I wanted stable Nixos, with no graphical wdm, so I switched to latest stable via git checkout nixos-19.09, and modify your .nix file to refer to /nixos/modules/installer/cd-dvd/installation-cd-base.nix et voilà :grinning:! Everything went flawlessly from booting .iso to installing NixOS 19.09!

However, that brings two questions:

  • how many of you use unstable, and how unstable would you say it is? Is it working as some kind of rolling release in this particular case?
  • just wondering why latest stable kernels are not loaded by default? Personally, I seem to have less troubles with all my computers (from brand new to old) with it.

Thanks again! NixOS has a really nice and helping community :relieved:!

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This would have been of interest for you
I believe you could have used an iso built from hydra like Hydra - Build 108675153 of job nixos:release-19.09:nixos.iso_minimal_new_kernel.x86_64-linux.

many. It is real rolling-release but without that Arch-style kind of kcuf ups. It is also pretty stable, as every channel update must pass same set of tests that stable has:

The only downside compared to releases – any breaking changes are documented in documentation, but not delivered directly to those who do updates. We lack such notifications for nixos-unstable.

Thanks for the links! I’ll keep an eye on this in the future.

Interesting – thanks a lot for your input. I’ve always lived bleeding edge in my previous Linux OSs so I’m gonna give the unstable channel a try on my laptop, to see how it works for me.